Living in Germany and Starting to Feel at Home

June 26, 2012
Living in Germany

It feels appropriate to start ‘corresponding’ now; two Fridays ago I returned from my first trip to England in eight months and being back here in the former capital of Germany, Bonn, I can now be sure of one significant fact – that I am here because I want to be here, not because I have to be.

I moved here at the beginning of September, a third year Geography student at The University of Bristol, funded by the SOCRATES ERASMUS exchange program, an EU sponsored project which organises exchanges between university students throughout Europe. Of course I came here of my own accord, but after eight months of sitting behind a wall built of geographical vocabulary, it no longer felt voluntary. I was here because I wasn’t going to be beaten by the foreign language, the absence of the familiar and the uncannily direct-speaking people.

Two weeks ago I bit the bullet and went home. I jumped on a train to Brussels, got stopped at Brussels without my passport, traveled back to Bonn to get my passport, and then hurried back to Brussels again. On the train I heard British voices; I was home.  I was no longer ‘outside’ of the circumstances; I was an element of them, able to participate in them; feel a connection to other people; live! My phone rang and I spoke in German. I was the German on a train of Englishmen. The visitor, whose trip was just that, a trip, temporary and limited by the pressures back ‘home’.

I thought of Bonn–home. Just as I’d begun to feel comfortable in my surroundings I realised that it is not up to me where my home is. The feeling of ease I experienced upon arriving in England was the result of being taught to know that I am a product of the country, and by believing in this knowledge, my mind relaxed. However, the mind and heart are two very separate entities, and whilst ‘knowing’ I was home, and even relaxing in my surroundings, I wasn’t there in spirit; it was as though I had not packed this in my suitcase, it lay waiting for me in Bonn.

So when I returned to Germany, I left this strange world which they call ‘England’ behind and arrived ‘home’ in Germany. It’s amazing how quickly we can adapt to our surrounds; leave our past behind us, where it belongs, and survive in starkly different circumstances. It comes down to just that – survival. When we see life as a choice, survival can be a struggle; should I really be here? Is this right for me? Would choices A or B not be better? However when we relax, accept and stop fighting for control and survive off belief and belief alone, that’s when we begin to go places.

About Sally Cervenak

Sally CervenakSally Cervenak is a student at the at University of Bristol. She has volunteered through Africa & Asia Venture, and has traveled all over the world.

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